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How to Write a Results Section: Tips, Examples, and Guide

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Written by
Dr. Helen Johnson
  • Icon Calendar 18 May 2024
  • Icon Page 5286 words
  • Icon Clock 24 min read

When students organize their scholarly works, they need valid guidelines on how to write a results section of a research paper. In this case, the article offers critical insights, including all the parts of a research paper and how a results section differs from the others, the information that should be included, and how to organize it correctly. The guideline also teaches students the differences between qualitative and quantitative research results sections, including samples and templates indicating how to present the findings. In turn, it provides 8 dos and 8 don’ts of writing a results section and 20 tips that students should follow.

How to Write an Outstanding Results Section & Examples

Students should read scholarly texts habitually to equip themselves with knowledge of the requirements of high-standard papers. While these requirements are not similar for different types of papers, they have similar unique features. For example, it is standard for writers of various types of essays to create a clear thesis statement that provides direction on the content and a well-organized essay outline that follows a correct essay structure and allows one to organize ideas logically. In turn, the guideline on how to write a results section provides insights into the details students must address when writing this part, including all the other components of a research paper, the information essential to include, and its organization. Moreover, readers should view this article as an educational tool that empowers them to start writing a high-standard results section of a scientific research paper.

How to Write a Results Section of a Research Paper: Tips, Examples, and Guide

6 Main Sections of a Research Paper and Its Structure

A research paper is unique because it has sections with varying details about a specific study topic. For example, these sections include an introduction, literature review, research methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. In this respect, a research paper is a comprehensive document that requires students’ total focus and dedication. Writers should use each section to provide information for readers to understand the essence and significance of research papers. Therefore, to write a quality results section, one must know how it differs from other scientific works and the information it must provide for readers. In turn, students should focus on the uniqueness of each section because it underscores its relevance in a research paper.

1️⃣ Introduction

The introduction is the first section of a research paper. As the title suggests, it aims to introduce the reader to the study problem under analysis. In this respect, there are critical details writers must provide in this section, including the research problem, the background of the investigation, the significance of the study, and the research question or hypothesis. Typically, research paper topics indicate study problems that students may use for writing their scholarly works. In turn, the background information addresses existing research and some gaps that writers intend to explore using bridge sentences in their current work. Moreover, the significance of the study must explain why the current scientific work is essential, and research question(s) or hypothesis(es) address what writers intend to prove through their work, either answering questions or validating null and alternative hypotheses. Thus, the introduction section of a research paper gives readers basic information about the writer’s scientific work. In turn, before the introduction, students can include an abstract or executive summary part, which means the overall summary of a research paper, but it is optional.

2️⃣ Review of the Existing Literature

A literature review is the second section of a research paper that examines existing evidence relating to a particular research paper problem. Depending on the topic, this section is robust because one must demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the research issue under review. More importantly, students must convince readers that they have investigated the evidence and found a gap by reviewing credible sources that justify their studies. The most significant detail that students should focus on when writing this section is to examine numerous reliable sources, including books, peer-reviewed academic articles, and reports by government agencies, to cite information and statistics relevant to the scientific problem or theoretical framework. Such information is essential in revealing the knowledge gap that justifies the current research work.

3️⃣ Research Methodology

Research methodology is the third section of a research paper and focuses on the methods that students use to conduct their research work. For example, scholars should understand that research work takes many forms or designs that determine the approach to take to execute their task. The two main designs are qualitative and quantitative studies, while research methods include descriptive, experimental, case study, and observation. Therefore, when writing this section, students must know they intend to give readers a roadmap for conducting their scientific work. Essential details include the study participants, how to identify them and their total number, how to collect data, and the data analysis procedure(s). The research design is the most important detail to consider because it determines all the other components of the research methodology section. Besides, this section tends to be longer than the introduction.

4️⃣ Results Section

A results section is the fourth part of a research paper and is where students outline the findings of their scientific work. Typically, this section is shorter than the previous one because its purpose is to provide readers with the outcomes of a research paper. As the title suggests, the details in this section should point to the findings only. Therefore, the issue that makes this results section unique is that writers do not provide details that contextualize their work but only those that indicate its outcomes. The information in this section underscores the purpose of the research work, including its ultimate objective.

5️⃣ Discussion

The fifth section of a research paper is a discussion part, where authors link the results of the study with the literature review. Ideally, the information in the section acts as a summary of a research paper that requires one to confirm that the findings are relevant to addressing the knowledge gap that writers expressed in the introduction and literature review. Typically, people show this linkage by indicating whether the results have answered the study question(s) or validated the hypothesis(es). Other essential details are the limitations of a research paper.

6️⃣ Conclusion

A conclusion is the last section of a research paper, and it reiterates the research question, how the findings impact the practice, such as nursing or psychology, and the need for conducting further studies to address unresolved questions. This last section summarizes a research paper and affects the reader’s perspective on the study problem.

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Providing the Right Information When Writing a Results Section

A results section is about the findings of the research work only. As such, students should not address anything that does not relate to the study question(s) or hypothesis(es). Typically, the details in this section include data that writers present in tables, charts, graphs, or other visual figures as part of the text or separately on pages at the end of the document, such as acknowledgments or appendices. Another detail is a contextual analysis of the data to give readers a better understanding of how it relates to the research question(s) or hypothesis(es), expanding on the meaning of the information presented. Further essential details in the section are data corresponding to the research question(s) or hypothesis(es) and secondary findings, including secondary outcomes and subgroup analyses. All these details make a results section unique because it is where readers need to understand the essence of the scientific work.

🔸 How to Organize a Results Section

While the results section’s primary purpose is to communicate the findings of a research paper, students should know that they cannot copy-paste raw information without a good explanation. For example, the information in a results section must have a pattern demonstrating a logical organization of the study findings. The best way to organize such findings is to use headings following a logical order of the study questions or hypotheses and integrate data through charts, graphs, visuals, or tables thematically. In this respect, when writing a results section, writers must refer to the introduction to ensure the information aligns with what they said. An important detail to note is that the graphical presentation of the results’ data is not sufficient. However, students must mention the data through statements that allow readers to understand how the results answer the research question(s) or validate or invalidate hypothesis (es).

🔸 How to Organize Figures, Charts, or Other Visuals

A logical presentation of data requires students to organize all data figures by numbering them and citing the number in the paragraph to link the findings to a research question or hypothesis. The numbering format should follow the order in which the writer mentions the data in the text. One should also explain the methodology that led to each figure. For example, students should capture the following details:

Figure 1

Figure 1: Racial/ethnic representation of health problems in the United States.

  • Integrate the data into the text by mentioning the percentage of Whites, Blacks, Latinx, and American Indians with diabetes and heart disease.
  • Mention Figure 1 but not necessarily the title. For example, one can write: “Figure 1 shows the proportion of Whites and Blacks with heart disease is 55 percent and 48 percent, respectively.” With that statement, readers can look at the chart and read its title to make sense of the sentence.
  • Depending on the type of figure, writers can indicate the figure legend at the top. In the above example, it reads, “Diabetes and Heart Disease in America.”
  • At the bottom of the figure (footnote), one should indicate the figure number followed by a caption that briefly describes the figure. In the above example, the caption reads, “Racial/ethnic representation of health problems in the United States.”
  • Writers must use labels to identify specific elements or features in the graph. In the above example, the horizontal axis uses percentages as labels indicating the proportion of Whites, Blacks, Latinx, and American Indians with diabetes and heart disease.

🔸 How to Organize Tables

Like figures, tables capture data reflecting a results section of a research paper. However, they differ from charts in how they reflect the data. For example, their unique features include columns and rows, each with a subheading. The following example shows how students should use tables in a results section:

Table 1

Table 1. Demographics of Whites in the United States for 2020 showing how obesity affects this population in the country. Young individuals are the most affected, with 38 percent presenting as obese, followed by adult females at 22 percent and then adult males at 18 percent. However, on average, the BMI index for all groups is below the obese level of 30.

  • Writers should identify the data in the table above by mentioning “Table 1” in the text about the demographics of Whites for 2020.
  • Typically, most research papers use a footnote rather than a table title. While a title is necessary to enhance readers’ understanding, footnotes are more detailed because they offer some analysis. In the above example, the footnote that follows the caption below the table analyzes the data for the reader’s benefit.
  • Typically, the row headings capture groups, and column headings indicate demographical data. In the example above, the row heading captures Whites as a racial group, while the column heading indicates the group’s demographics. Writers should understand that each row and each column should reflect one group and one demographical data, respectively.
  • Sometimes, writers may have row subheadings to indicate group categories and column subheadings to capture variables. In the above example, the row subheadings are youths, adult males, and adult females as the group categories, while the column subheadings indicate average BMI and obesity as demographic categories.
  • Tables provide self-explanatory data to readers, and footnotes only attempt to make sense of it superficially. By looking at the table, people should comprehend the results without reading all the text.

Therefore, students should use figures and tables as focal points to communicate a clear and informative narrative about the findings of a research paper. In this respect, writers should repeat every detail in the text, although they must reference all data in a results section or other body paragraphs by pointing readers to “Table 1.”

How to Write a Good Results Section With 8 Dos and 8 Don’ts

When writing a great results section, students should know what to talk about or do and what not to talk about or not do. The things to do to demonstrate a high-standard results section and those not to do can affect the section’s quality. From this perspective, students must habitually read research papers to familiarize themselves with 8 dos and 8 don’ts of writing a results section.

What One Should Do When Writing a Results Section: 8 Dos

  1. Write in the past tense only. All study findings are what the author has established after conducting the actual study. The language that reflects this aspect is past tense. Common terminologies include ‘found,’ ‘established,’ and ‘confirmed.’ Using this language tells readers that the research has already happened and the outcomes are clear, as the text indicates through visuals, charts, graphs, figures, and tables.
  2. Write concisely. Findings require interpretation from statistical data to statistical analyses. Typically, this exercise involves complex language that may need to be clarified for readers. As such, students should write a results section clearly and concisely to avoid sending the wrong message to other scholars. For example, one must be clear about which finding relates to which study question or hypothesis.
  3. Referencing the study question(s) or hypothesis(es). A results section aims to answer the research question(s) or validate or invalidate the hypothesis(es). As such, students must refer to them (as applicable) when writing a results section. As stated, the best approach is to refer to them according to the order they appear in the introduction section for logical consistency.
  4. Begin with broad results. Typically, the findings of a research paper vary in how they answer the study question(s) or validate or invalidate the hypothesis(es). Some results are broad, requiring some comprehensive analysis, and others narrow, covering a brief mention. Students should begin with the general results because they affect the scientific question(s) or hypothesis(es) more than the narrow findings. However, they should mention the narrow findings later in the text because they are precise to the study question or hypothesis.
  5. Write the most critical findings from figures or tables. The purpose of figures and tables is to provide a broad picture of the results. However, only some details capture the most critical finding. For example, in the table above, the most critical finding is the rate of obesity in the White community, specifically youths, adult males, and adult females. When referring to Table 1, a student should mention the percentages of obesity prevalence in these groups as the most critical finding despite the chart indicating other details, such as the BMI, which are central to this crucial result.
  6. Avoid background information and explanation of findings. Students should avoid explaining the results or providing any background information. At this part of a research paper, readers already understand the background of the study because they have read the introduction and literature review sections. Consequently, they expect an in-depth explanation of the results in the later discussion section.
  7. Do not capture raw data or intermediate calculations. The findings in a results section should make sense to all readers. As such, students should not provide raw data or indicate its intermediate calculations. The data analysis section that falls in the research methodology offers the opportunity for these exercises. Therefore, students should understand that a results section should provide an answer to readers about the study question(s) or hypothesis(es), not leaving them with the task of analyzing the data to make the connection.
  8. Never ignore negative results. Authors of research papers probably have a biased interpretation of the results because they already have a preferred outcome. In such cases, most students may be tempted to ignore negative results if they do not conform to their expectations or preferences. However, they must understand that a results section should reflect the findings of a research paper regardless of whether they are positive or negative in their eyes. This capture of the results makes any research paper scholarly and valid.

What to Avoid: 8 Don’ts

  1. Do not capture all data generated in a research paper. Writers need to understand that the purpose of writing a results section is to answer the research question(s) or validate or invalidate the hypothesis(es). Doing so does not require all the data, but what is relevant for this task. Moreover, research papers have limited length, and one cannot have room in a results section to indicate all the data from the study experiment.
  2. Do not use text to describe everything. The purpose of charts, figures, visuals, and tables is to capture and present data in a short summary. As such, they help writers to avoid explaining every data and related detail because it may be complex and confusing to readers. Therefore, one should only describe or explain some things but use figures, visuals, and tables to present broad data.
  3. Do not repeat the data in figures and tables. When referring to figures, visuals, and tables in the text, students should avoid repeating every piece of data but instead interpret it for readers. What is important is the most critical data because it provides a clear and concise message about a research question or hypothesis. Therefore, students should interpret the data instead of repeating the same information as it is in the chart, visual, figure, or table. In the example of the table above, one should not repeat all the information but summarize it by stating the group most affected by obesity and how.
  4. Do not jump around the data to discuss the findings. The logical presentation of data requires students to provide information that answers the research questions or hypotheses as they appear in the introduction. As such, one should avoid mentioning data relevant to one question when answering a different question. The same case should apply to hypotheses.
  5. Do not give long explanations. A results section should be short but clear and concise. In this respect, students should refrain from long explanations because they reduce the space for the most essential information: critical findings. The best approach to avoid long descriptions is to use figures, visuals, charts, and tables.
  6. Do not use meaningless numbers. While a results section aims to show data mostly in numbers for a quantitative study, students should avoid using every number they have if it is not meaningful to a research question or hypothesis. Therefore, after data analysis, one should decide on the most relevant and meaningful numbers to include in a results section.
  7. Do not cite other research works. Since the purpose of a results section is to provide the findings of a research paper, one should avoid irrelevant details, including comparing the results to those of other research works. Students must understand that the discussion section gives them room to do so.
  8. Do not use the results of other authors. Any academic work is designed for a specific purpose. In this case, students must do their own research papers and present unique findings section, including negative or positive ones. The findings of other authors can be used only for a comparison of the results.

Examples of Results Sections for Qualitative and Quantitative Research Studies

The two primary research paper designs that scholars use for their scientific works are qualitative and quantitative studies. Each design has a unique way of capturing the findings of a research paper. The two examples below show how students should write a results section in qualitative and quantitative research papers. However, students must note the language and details, such as statistical data.

Example of a Qualitative Results Section

[Introductory context] A total of 98 respondents from different countries gave essential data by answering the survey questionnaire. The representation was as follows: 30 respondents were from the U.S. (30.6% of the total), 26 from China (26.5%), 22 from Russia (22.4%), and 20 from the United Kingdom (20.4%). […] [Important finding] According to the results, the most important cultural identifiers are language (w=0.3402), followed by ethnicity (w=0.2930) and religion (w=0.2279). Most respondents viewed gender as the most insignificant compared to the other three (w=0,1388) (Table 1). […] [Interesting Finding] An interesting finding is that the U.S. and the U.K. respondents considered sexual orientation as a determinant of a country’s cultural vibrancy, while those from China and Russia viewed it as an indicator of negative liberalism. All the respondents had a uniform consistency ratio (C.R.) of less than 0.08 (8%). [Another important finding] According to all the respondents, the three critical drivers of cultural vibrancy are technology (mean value of 4.88), education (4.60), contact with other cultures (4.40), and the media (4.30). Conversely, the factors that influence cultural assimilation the least, according to all the respondents, are cultural artifacts (2.88) and friendships (2.66) (Figure 1). […] [Summary of Key Findings] The findings indicate differences of opinion regarding some cultural topics and convergence of thought in others between countries from the respondents’ perspective. On differences, respondents from the U.S. and U.K. hold more liberal views than their Chinese and Russian counterparts. The point of convergence for all the respondents is the belief that culture is the most instrumental factor for interrogating the attitudes and behaviors of people.

Example of a Qualitative Results Section

[Introductory Context] The student data system for 2010 through 2020 was the source of the demographic data for the sample. The descriptive statistics include age, gender, grades, and course selection. Table 1 describes the cross-tabulation frequencies of the study sample. The mean age was 28.42 years, with a standard deviation of 8.22 years. The age range of the sample was from 18 to 50 years. [Relevant Finding] Overall, more students selected online than physical courses, with a uniform enrollment rate in online courses in both males and females; however, the proportion of males was high (62.7%) for online instruction than that of females (58.8%) as shown in Figures 1 and 2. […] [Significant Finding (including a significant test result)] A statistically significant difference in grades is reported between students enrolled in online classes and their counterparts in the traditional classroom setting. The mean and standard deviation for grades calculated by delivery type showed no significant difference between online and physical instruction. In contrast, those calculated by the instructor showed no significant difference in the mean grade. […] [Reference to Visual Data] Table 6 shows the impact of the delivery method and the instructor on students’ grades. […] The delivery method did not influence significant grade differences (F = 0.078, p = 0.780, df = 1, 811). The same case was reported for the instructor (F = 0.002, p = .967, df = 1, 811). The two factors had no significant interaction (F = 0.449, p = 0.503, df = 1, 811). [Relevant Finding] There is a statistically significant difference in student course retention between those taking online courses and their counterparts in physical classrooms (Supplementary Appendix Figure 1). Data were included for testing if a final grade was reported for a participant (Supplementary Appendix Figure 2). [Context to a Research Question or Hypothesis] The analysis of the contingency data was essential in confirming the hypothesis. Data organization indicates the row variable as course selection (online or physical classroom) and the column variable as retention in the course. [Explanation of a study Test] The chi-square testing (X2 = 2.524, p = .112, df = 1, 884) indicated no statistically significant difference between retention in online and physical classroom courses. [Significant Findings] The study includes a statistically significant difference in student retention between those who begin the program online and those who begin in the physical classroom. […] [Summary of Key Findings] Results from testing of H1 showed no significant difference between course grades for students enrolled in online courses and their counterparts in physical classroom courses. Chi-square testing of H2 indicated no significant difference in course retention between students taking online courses and those taking courses in the physical classroom environment. Chi-square testing of H3 indicated no significant difference in program retention between students who began the course online and those who began it in the physical classroom.

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Templates for Qualitative and Quantitative Results Sections

I. Qualitative Results Template:

  1. [Introductory Context]
  2. [Finding 1 – Important]
  3. [Finding 2 – Interesting]
  4. [Another Important Finding 3 that refers to a chart, figure, visual, or table]
  5. [Summary of key findings]

II. Quantitative Results Template:

  1. [Introductory Context]
  2. [Finding 1 – Relevant]
  3. [Finding 2 – Significant –  with reference to a test result]
  4. [Reference to a chart, figure, visual, or table]
  5. [Finding 3 – Relevant]
  6. [Context to a Research Question or Hypothesis]
  7. [Explanation of a Study Test]
  8. [Finding 3 – Significant]
  9. [Summary of key findings]

Looking at the two templates, it is evident that crucial details appear in all but some only in quantitative research. In both templates, students should introduce the section by stating some facts, such as the study sample, and enumerate the results, using charts, figures, visuals, or tables as necessary. However, only in a quantitative study, one should mention tests and their outcomes.

Comparing and Contrasting Qualitative and Quantitative Results Sections

There are areas of similarity and difference between the results sections of qualitative and quantitative research studies. The main similarities are that both results sections capture statistical data or reports and do not interpret the meanings of data with long explanations. However, there are many differences in presenting the content. Firstly, a qualitative results section emphasizes non-numerical, descriptive data, focusing on themes and ideas. In contrast, a quantitative results section highlights measurable (or quantifiable) numerical data relevant to interpreting trends, making predictions, running experiments, or testing hypotheses. Another difference is that a qualitative results section adopts descriptive and interpretive approaches to make sense of the collected data. On the other hand, a quantitative results section adopts numbers-based strategies, including statistics, calculations, and data measurements, to make sense of the collected data.

Research Questions and Hypotheses

When writing a results section, students must focus on the research question(s) or hypothesis(es) they stated in the introduction because they underscore the paper’s importance or purpose. Regarding research questions, the data presented in a results section must refer to the questions as they appear in the introduction, giving outcomes that reflect answers to these queries. Concerning hypotheses, students should ensure that a results section confirms or rejects them. In other words, a good results section should help readers to understand the scientific problem by answering the study question(s) or validating or invalidating the hypothesis(es). Therefore, when writing a results section, students should know that they are answering a specific research question or confirming a study hypothesis. This determination is crucial because it must reflect proper language, concepts, and terms used in the text.

20 Tips for Writing a Well-Organized Results Section

Based on the preceding sections, writing a high-standard results section of a research paper is a technical undertaking that requires students to grasp helpful insight. Some of the useful tips include always using simple and clear language, avoiding irrelevant expressions, discussing the findings objectively without overinterpretation, using sub-sections if there are more research questions or hypotheses, including negative results even if they do not support the study hypothesis, providing visuals charts, figures, visuals, and tables to document the results, and mentioning the tests and their outcomes for a quantitative study.

10 things to do when writing a results section include:

  1. briefly and precisely summarizing the results at the beginning of the section;
  2. using visual illustrations, like charts, figures, and tables;
  3. arranging the results logically;
  4. linking the data to the research question(s) or hypothesis(es);
  5. following clear, simple, and concise language;
  6. being objective;
  7. avoiding long explanations;
  8. including statistical analyses to make the data sensible to readers;
  9. providing the correct information for the right study question or hypothesis;
  10. presenting paragraphs that respond to different scientific questions or hypotheses.

10 things not to do when writing a results section include:

  1. using raw data;
  2. duplicating similar information by repeating the data in the visual illustrations within the text;
  3. including repetitive background information;
  4. constantly referring to the research methods;
  5. overlooking negative findings that do not support biases or invalid claims;
  6. providing charts, figures, visuals, or tables excessively;
  7. explaining the results comprehensively;
  8. presenting a findings section of other research papers as writers’ study results;
  9. failing to give graphs, figures, and tables a number;
  10. not mentioning a specific chart, figure, visual, or table number within the text.

Summing Up on How to Write a Perfect Results Section

  • Start writing a results section by restating the purpose of a research paper.
  • Use the past tense to describe the findings.
  • Avoid vague language.
  • Provide a clear, coherent, and logical explanation of all results without bias.
  • Include the data that answers the research question(s) or validates or invalidates the hypothesis(es).
  • Use useful and quality visual illustrations, like charts, figures, and tables.
  • Present details about data analysis and interpretation and mention any statistical tests and their results.
  • Report statistically insignificant findings to give a research paper credibility.
  • Conclude with a short paragraph that summarizes the key findings.
  • Proofread, revise, and edit a results section to eliminate any mistakes.

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